HC Deb 01 May 1956 vol 552 cc186-8
10. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make a further statement on the housing of the elderly.

Mr. Sandys

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, if the Answer is a slightly long one, but I should like to give it now, if the House will bear with me.

I have decided to inquire into the arrangements that are being made for housing elderly persons. My object is to see whether, having regard to the requirements of other sections of the population, old people are receiving a reasonable share of the accommodation provided and whether this is of the kind best suited to their physical needs and financial circumstances.

Accordingly, I propose to ask all focal authorities and certain voluntary organisations to be good enough to send me particulars of what they have done to deal with this problem. While this information is being collected, I shall arrange for a qualified official of my Department to go and see schemes of various kinds in different parts of the country and to make a report to me upon them. I also intend to seek the views of the Central Housing Advisory Committee.

The problem of housing elderly people is in many respects connected with that of providing for their health and welfare. My inquiries will therefore naturally be carried out in close collaboration with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend accept the appreciation of, I am sure, everybody for the action that he has taken? Will he also accept the appreciation of those social workers, knowledgeable people, throughout the country who have been struggling to deal with the problem of old age? Also, will my right hon. Friend speed the matter up as quickly as he possibly can?

Mr. Sandys

An expression of appreciation from the hon. Lady is appreciation indeed. I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that there will be no avoidable delay.

Mr. Mitchison

While I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's present awareness of the problem, does his statement mean that he will reconsider his refusal to maintain housing subsidies for old people's dwellings, a refusal against which the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) abstained from voting?

Mr. Sandys

I thought that my reply was clear. The first thing to do is to ascertain what the facts are and what is being done, and then we can consider what improvements, if any, need to be made.

Mr. Mitchison

And the right hon. Gentleman will not rule out an increase in subsidy?

Mr. Sandys

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is somewhat out of sympathy with the general feeling of the House.

Major Beamish

Will my right hon. Friend give special consideration to a scheme run by the Salford Corporation in co-operation with the W.V.S. which has brought a great deal of happiness to many old people and has also meant considerable savings to the ratepayers?

Mr. Sandys

I am glad that my hon. and gallant Friend has draw attention to that scheme. I will see that that is one of the schemes visited by the official from my Department.

21. Mr. Gibson

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the number of small flats and bungalows built for aged people in 1955 and for the months of January to March, 1956.

Mr. Powell

Figures are not available for the number of dwellings let to old people, but in 1955, 15,959 one-bedroom dwellings were built and 3,573 were built in the first quarter of 1956.

Mr. Gibson

That seems to indicate that there will be an appreciable reduction in the numbers built this year. Judging by his previous Answers, the Minister regards this matter as very important, and I agree with him. Will he include in his inquiry an inquiry into the increase in the proportion of old people in the country who will have to be housed in the next ten or fifteen years, and will he include in his report a reference to that problem? Local authorities must build for this type of occupant many more houses than are now being built.

Mr. Powell

The number of old persons in the population is clearly a relevant factor in the investigation.